Over the last five days, I played catch-up on the myriad of responses to both Ekemini Uwan’s on-stage interview at the Sparrow Conference on March 30th in Dallas, Texas and the subsequent actions of the conference organizers, including this 5-sentence public apology the conference organizers issued.
I was interested to discover this morning that Sparrow Women consider themselves peacemakers and that Sparrow Conference “exists to catalyze the next generation of reconcilers.” And if you look through the website at the pictures of the leadership team, the speaker lineup, and the advisory board, the optics as far as ethnic diversity are great. Unfortunately, despite the diversity within the organization, the conference generated one of most painful racial controversies I can remember in recent history.
I’m not going to adjudicate what happened in this post, but here’s my two cents on conferences. When it comes to racial reconciliation and bridge-building, I’m convinced that more progress is made by a handful of people setting aside a year to quietly read things like Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, Douglas Blackmon’s Slavery By Another Name, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, or Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning, than by thousands of people attending a conference. The former demands self-discipline and a posture of learning from start to finish, but the latter is unavoidably tainted by consumerism and the allure of false transcendence.* It’s not that there aren’t benefits, but you have to weigh those against the enormous down sides, both inherent and potential.
Anyway, I want to offer the following infographic and table (I don’t know exactly what to call this) as a tool that may help to deconstruct some of our most intractable interracial interactions. I hope it proves to be at least somewhat useful.
* In a letter that Eugene Peterson penned to a fellow pastor seeking broader influence at a megachurch, Peterson warned that a crowd of any sort was “an exercise in a false transcendence upward.” Peterson E. (2011). The Pastor: A Memoir(p. 156). New York, NY: HarperCollins.